Packaging for the Instagram Generation

Project Juice and Celery Design collaborate to “Make it pop on Instagram” with a new line of home-delivered organic smoothies

Shelf presence has been the driving force behind consumer package design for decades, but social media marketing and direct home delivery are turning that paradigm upside down. Suddenly, there is no shelf. In this new age of online everything, the most important question for designers is often, “Is it Instagram worthy?”

Designing for the “Instagram Generation” is very different from past models, but it opens up creative possibilities. The new line of packaging for Sub-Zero Superfoods organic smoothies from Project Juice is a case in point. The company has built a strong lifestyle brand with clean food and healthy beverages. They’re committed to quality, deliciousness, and taking care of their customers. As they grew from brick and mortar to online retail, it became more complex to deliver their signature high-touch experience. They had a strong presence in social media — and if their new line of direct-delivery smoothies was going to succeed, the packaging had to burst with energy and awesomeness.

On a store shelf, design tends toward the concrete — there’s just a lot of information that must be conveyed. The company logo, product category and description, and differentiating attributes all require a prominent position on the package. Whatever space is left after all of that can be used to create an interesting package, but it’s hard to diverge very much from the standard formula.

Since we were designing the smoothie cups in the context of Instagram, we could be a bit more abstract with our concept. Consumers won’t see the cups on the shelf at any grocery store or handle the package before purchase, and they’re not directly comparing product A to product B. The accompanying social media shareline or testimonial from a consumer does some of the heavy lifting regarding the product description and differentiating attributes. In this context, the ingredients become the star, and our over-arching goal is to give these all-organic cups of goodness emotional appeal.

Celery approached the Sub-Zero Superfoods packaging as word art. We used the language to draw the viewer in with whimsical watercolor typography. Working from the diverse ingredient list — acai, goji berries, chia seeds, spirulina, ginger, and matcha — Celery’s designers built colorful artwork that broadcast the vibrant personality of each recipe. The fruit-forward visuals bring the experience to life in an explosion of happy, playful feelings. We had to create an iconic language flexible enough to be applied to the variety of products, but the emotional reaction was paramount. After all, that’s what makes you want to take a selfie with your smoothie.

Project Juice co-founder Marra St. Clair sees the results on Instagram every day: “Our brand is growing primarily through word-of-mouth, because of the quality of our ingredients and uniqueness of our products. The design gets people excited to take photos and post every time they get a new delivery or discover a new flavor they love. That’s hugely important for helping us spread the word.”

We think designing for the social media marketplace can be both liberating and exciting. You’re freed from many of the standard tropes of packaging design. We’re experimenting as we go. What are you discovering? I’d love to hear what other companies are trying and what you’re finding.